Flo’s Garden in March

As the weather gotten warmer, my garden is coming back to life. 

The blossoms from the blueberry bushes turned into fruits.  There must be hundreds in each bush, and that times eight bushes equal to a constant supply of ripped blueberries.  This is particularly wonderful for Ravi, because foraging for fresh blueberries is the only way he’ll eat them.

 

Blueberries bushes full of fruits

Blueberries bushes full of fruits

Though the tangerine trees haven’t gain much height, they are doing wonderfully well by showing beautiful light green new leaves and covered with fragrant blossoms.

Tangerine Blossoms

Tangerine Blossoms

Half of my thyme border died last year, but the remaining three are thriving.  There’s probably more thyme than I ever need in the kitchen.

Thyme

Thyme

I kind of remember Maxie’s favorite fruit in the backyard to be strawberries last year, though I am not sure if he ate any or just played with them till they became mush.  In any case, I decided that I am going to grow tones of them.  So this is my first batch, store bought.   I do have plans to grow a couple of varieties from seeds; we’ll cover that in a different post.

New strawberries

New strawberries

I got to admit, I really like lamb’s ear.  It has a fantastic texture and a silver highlight to it.  The couple that I plant last year all survived the winter and is doing really well.

Lamb's Ears

Lamb’s Ears

Peach blossoms!  I hope I will be able to eat peach off the tree this year.

Peach blossoms

Peach blossoms

One of the most expensive plants I bought last year was forest pansy, and I had to buy two!  Though they broke my bank, they are indeed beautiful.  The color of leaves changes as the season goes on, so facinating to look at.  A week ago the branches were bare, now they are covered with beautiful pink flowers.  I would expect they will be covered with leaves soon.

Forest Pansy blossomed before beautiful red leaves appeared.

Forest Pansy blossomed before beautiful red leaves appeared.

The saddest casualty in my backyard last year was that all four of my loropetalums ($45 each at 5 gallon)!  I am going to contribute that to lack of soil amentment when they were being planted.  This is another reason why I would never again let someone else plant for me.  This year, I bought the 1.5 gallon version for $15 and added all kinds of compost and fertilizer.  So far, they are doing fantastic!  I hope to keep these alive this year.

Loropetalum, Sizzling Suzanne, in season.

Loropetalum, Sizzling Suzanne, in season.

My beautiful princess lilies, survived the winter with flying colors by adding some much needed green to the garden.  I plan on getting a few more in different color to add to my garden.

Princess Lily

Princess Lily

-Flo 

 

Flo’s Garden in February

Last year I completed construction on my backyard in April and finished planting new trees, shrubs, and flowers by mid May.  Unfortunately, due to the unusally hot weather in southern California and my lack of timing in planting, an alarmingly high number of plants died out;  it was well over 100 degrees in May and half of my bare root roses were killed.  Even my horticultural consultant lady reported a few of her own casualties.  So by the end of the year, many spots in my garden were bare. 

This year, I learned from my previous mistakes and planned way ahead.  I ordered my David Austin roses, as well as a few other plants, from the local Armstrong instead of on-line.  They delivered quality plants and I enjoyed great service last year; I definitely expect the same this year.

While waiting for my plants to come in, I captured a few images of life in my garden.  Those that survived the ordeal of the hot summer are thriving.

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Tylor’s Perfection Camilia. The first blossoms of the year, absolutely beautiful, brightened up my whole garden.

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Tylor’s Perfection Camilia. The most beautiful shade of pink.

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Peach. An unexpected guest from the winter crop.

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Black Jack Fig. Even though the fruits a bit on the dry side, it was nice to see it produce a second season of fruit in it’s first year.

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Lady Emma, David Austin roses. The first rose of the year.

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One of three Tangerine trees.

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One of three Tangerine trees.

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Mini Kishu Tangerine. Only one fruit was produced so far.

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Bountiful blueberries. It is absolutely fabulous. It even flowered in November and carried fruits in January.

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Total Recall, Bearded Iris.

More to report next month.

-Flo.

 

Napoleon in the Backyard

One day in July I saw a tiny little watermelon plant at Home Depot and decided to give it a home.  He was so frail that I had little hope that it will survive or produce any fruit, given that I have this big old black thumb (as to green thumb which is the opposite of what I have).

Two months later, he barely grew to 2 feet in radius.  When my horticultural adviser did a walk-through with me in my garden, she also had very little hope for this tiny guy.  Though she was very happy to see that I took a chance on him, but said him had little chance because I planted him too late in the season.  “The calendar I gave you suggested planting watermelons in May or June!”  Oops!  Better study up that calendar ASAP!

But what do you know, suddenly during the heat waves in September our tiny guy suddenly ballooned!  It is hard to imagine this could have ever happened.  It grew so big that his tentacles covered the entire 20 feet planting area, covering and choking his neighbors as he goes.  Of course his next logical step was to expand cross the walking path to seek out other “continents.”  This is how he earned his name, Napoleon the Watermelon.

We pruned him three times to get him off of his neighbors backs, but he came back stronger within days each time!  You may be wondering why we tolerate this dictator’s behavior.  But you see, Napoleon has such treasures!

 

Napoleon the Watermelon taking over the world!

Napoleon the Watermelon taking over the world!

Napoleon "squeezing" the lemon grass

Napoleon “squeezing” the lemon grass

Napoleon climbing over the tangerine tree.

Napoleon climbing over the tangerine tree.

Napoleon choking the blueberry bush.

Napoleon choking the blueberry bush.

Napoleon's tentacles choking the blueberry bush.

Napoleon’s tentacles choking the blueberry bush.

The biggest treasure!

Napoleon’s biggest treasure!

This treasure is getting bigger each day!

One of many Napoleon’s smaller treasures grow bigger each day!

Dozen's of these baby ones.

Napoleon has dozen’s of these baby ones.

 

Right now Napoleon is single-handedly thrashing the lemongrass, tangerine tree, the blueberry bushes, a sizzling pink, and the peach tree and looking to pick a fight with another tangerine tree, a lavender bush, and assorted blueberry bushes. This reminiscence of when he trashed the grand coalition of Austria, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Naples, Prussia, Spain and the Kingdom of Great Britain!

Though the boys love to visit Napoleon, he is slowly getting on my nerves.  There’s no promise how long he’ll survive under my watch.

-Flo.

First step to a new backyard — landscape design

One of the major reasons we bought our beloved yellow house was because of the rare large backyard in the area its in.  When we moved in, we completely renovated the interior of the house but left the backyard mostly untouched.  Maxie was just borne then, so neither Mario nor I had the bandwidth to do much about it.  Thus it remained a blank and ugly canvas for two years.  I often day dreamed of what it could be, envisioned the boys running around in it, playing games, picking fruits, and riding bikes.  It would be full of fruits and flowers, butterfly and honey birds, and the most gorgeous plants on earth.  Last year we finally decided it was time to give the backyard a make over.

I was so happy to take on the backyard renovation project!  I had already subscribed to gardening magazines and owned several books on landscaping.  For 10 months, I gathered information and drafted landscape plans.  But dozens of revisions later, I still wasn’t happy with my designs.  Even though I challenged myself to think differently for each plan, I couldn’t break out of my boxy designs.  I knew it could be so much more than my limited knowledge and skill could fathom.  What I needed was a fresh perspective.  So I investigated into employing a landscape design company but the cost was too high for my budget.  By chance I found out about this independent landscape designer with a reasonable price tag.  She had recently designed a friend’s front yard and I was eager to give her a try.

I contacted her in March of this year and provided her my wishlist:

Backyard –a lush garden full of flowers and fruits in every season, and an interesting place for little kids to explore and play.

Must have:

– Safe and fun place for young children
– Space to accommodate a play set
– Need to determine what ground covering works best for the play set
– Accommodate existing shed

Like to have:

– 4-8 dwarf fruit trees (Chinese pomelo, miniature tangerines, peaches, ruby grapefruit, …etc)
– Outdoor seating area
– Raised beds (more than 2 at 6x3ft2)
– Curved path way
– Raspberry and blueberry garden
– David Austin’s English rose and/or climbing rose garden
– Water feature
– Dwarf Japanese maple

Two weeks later, she same back with a landscape plan.

Our Back Yard Landscape Design

Our Back Yard Landscape Design

I was over the moon!  She gave me almost everything I asked for.  I loved that her fluid and casual design made total sense for the rigid rectangular space, and her use of plants’ textures, heights, and color combination really wow’ed me.  I won’t bore you with detail of every plant, but here’s a condensed version of her plant list (numbers corresponding to the call out of the landscape plan):

1. Black Satin Blackberry

4. Burgundy plum

5. Camelia, “Taylor’s Perfection”

7. Cercis canadensis “Forest Pansy”

8. More Blood Orange

9. Rose, “Generous Gardener” (David Austin roses)

12.  Japanese Maple (I forgot the variety name)

14. Rose, “Lady Emma” (David Austin roses)

17. Rose, “Teasing Georgia” (David Austin roses)

19. Ficus carica, “Black Jack” fig

20. Bearded Iris, “Total Recall”

21.  Apple, Malus domestica, “Anna”, espaliered

23. Rose, “Abraham Darby” (David Austin roses)

32. Rose, “Harlow Carr” (David Austin roses)

33. Chinese Grapefruit (pummelo)

34. Rose, “Tess of the d’Urbervilles”  (David Austin roses)

& 3 varieties of dwarf tangerines (including Kishu mini) and 2 varieties of blueberries (including Sunshine and Bountiful)

 

I was so excited that I couldn’t wait to get started.  Just imagine being able to collect 10 different varieties of fruits, cut roses from 6 different varieties and colors, and an assortment of herbs for cooking.  This landscape design has surpassed all my expectations.  That garden of Eden was so near I could smell it!  Though little did I know then, I was far from making the garden of my dreams a reality.

-Flo.